Interview: Fashion designer William Hunt

He’s dressed the likes of Robert De Niro and David Beckham and now fashion designer William Hunt is making golf stylish.

Tailor William Hunt

He’s dressed the likes of Robert De Niro and David Beckham and now fashion designer William Hunt is making golf stylish. LIZ LAMB chats to the Savile Row supremo who is bringing his hugely successful golf tour to the region

IT’S difficult to imagine a pair of trousers causing outrage. Yet when golfer Ian Poulter stepped out at the British Open wearing a pair of Union Jack trousers they did just that.

Complaints were made to golf officials but Poulter’s decision to don the bespoke pants scored him the front page of most national newspaper in the land.

It also worked wonders for their creator William Hunt, a Savile Row tailor and huge golf fan, who counts some big names as his fans.

“Those trousers made the front page of every newspaper but it was a total fluke,” laughs the designer. “This guy called Ian Poulter rang me on a Monday and asked me if I could make him some trousers and he asked if I could make them in a week.

“I didn’t even know who he was.

“I had this Union Jack fabric lying around and I thought I will make them out of that.

“Ian wouldn’t wear them when I revealed them. He said he couldn’t wear them, he would get kicked out, but he did and the rest, as they say, is history. It was a good fun fluke and it launched both of our careers in golf.”

Hunt is no stranger to sport. The Manchester-born designer became a professional footballer at the age of 18 and, after the now infamous creation for Poulter, went on to design the team suits for his beloved Manchester United for the 2007 FA cup final.

He has been in tailoring for 15 years. Influenced by the music scene in his home city, he swapped the training ground for the drawing board and began his own clothing label, opening his first store on the King’s Road in Chelsea.

In 1998 he opened on the world-famous Savile Row and his fiercely masculine designs, infused with splashes of colour, became a huge success. Based on a grounding of engineering and architecture and a love of Hollywood, Hunt’s style pays unashamed homage to iconic men throughout the ages. His inspired tailoring has led to a cult following from rock stars to actors, sportsmen and celebrities.

“It’s an edgy, sexy label for ordinary guys,” explains Hunt who, despite his A-list celebrity clientele, is extremely down to earth. “It’s the kind of clothes girls want to see guys in. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, De Niro, Beckham and Ryan Giggs all come in.

“I’ve met a few of them but not so much these days as I am not in the shop as much. They are just like the rest of us. Everyone is welcome in my store.”

Around eight years ago, unable to play football anymore, Hunt turned to golf.

“I couldn’t play football anymore. I wasn’t very good”, he confesses. “I thought what can I do that is competitive and doesn’t hurt, so I started playing golf.

“I quickly immersed myself in that and I developed a passion for it.”

The ex-footballer decided to bring his two passions together – golf and fashion – and around five years ago launched a clothing range for golfers.

“I wanted it to be more Rat Pack and make it really cool,” says Hunt. “Golf clothes were all Lycra and nylon and badly cut trousers and I thought golfers should look like Frank Sinatra and wear what Dean Martin would wear.”

But he didn’t just stop at clothes. In 2008 Hunt launched the Trilby Tour, the first tournament of its kind to give amateurs the chance to play as a professional and it has since been given the nickname of Golf Idol.

Hunt says: “When I was in my twenties I had a great friend who went to play at Wembley. It was a celebrity match before the FA cup final and George Best didn’t turn up so I ended up playing instead.

“The feeling I got from that game was unbelievable. Fear, excitement, nerves, all rolled into one and that excitement and feeling of being on the pitch never left me.

“I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to replicate that for ordinary guys.

“I came up with the Trilby Tour.

“The exciting part of any football game is extra time, so I came up with a formula for extra time in the golf tournament so you have four guys up against it and it makes it very exciting.”

The William Hunt Trilby Tour is now widely regarded as the best amateur golf tournament in the UK. It’s phenomenal popularity saw last year’s events sell out within weeks and it is now being aired on Sky Sports as a 12-part television series.

Tomorrow, the tour comes to the region with a date at Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth, County Durham, which will be aired on Sky Sports on Monday August 29.

“When we first started the tour in 2008, we started with 100 players and now we have 1,300,” he says. “ We have a 12-date tour in the UK and then we are going to take it out to the States, Korea, China. We are at 30 golf resorts in China. It has been really successful.

“I took my idea for the tournament to Sky Sports to see about putting it on the television.

“They looked at me like I was mad when I was explaining it to them but then I said it’s a bit like Pop Idol but for golf. Then they got it, so now it’s screened on Sky with over two million viewers.”

Naturally, the golf fans who take part are very stylishly dressed.

“I thought it would be great to dress them up a bit,”, says the designer. “We are strict. Everyone has to make an effort and wear the correct clothing, use the right equipment and turn up on time.

“If they don’t, they are out. By doing this we create tension, we create a buzz. The whole feeling and spirit of the tournament is like being at the fun fair, like being on the big dipper – it’s fun but it is quite scary too.”

The tournament has even been known to make grown men cry.

“The fun is at the finish,” he says. “That’s when some of the golfers start thinking ‘my god, I might win this’. We get grown men crying. Last year the guy who won it was so emotional, it was like he had won Miss World.

“We put these guys through hell and then when they win it, it’s very emotional. One guy came second last year in the national final. He wrote me a letter after the final and thanked me. He said afterwards he had gone back to his hotel room and sobbed uncontrollably for three hours, he had been on such a rollercoaster. That’s what this tour can do to you.”

Amateur golfers and spectators from across the North East and the UK will descend on Rockliffe’s course, one of the longest in Europe, tomorrow.

Director of golf Ian Knight, said: “The event is a stunning golfing spectacle and a wonderful day out for anyone, whether you are a golf fan or not.

“Just as exciting is the fact that the Sky Sports cameras will also be covering the tournament. It will help cement Rockliffe Hall as one of the premier new courses in the UK. “

The William Hunt Trilby Tour is at Rockliffe Hall on June 30. Visit www.rockliffehall.com for details or call (01325) 729999.

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